The line between objective news and opinion is fading at an alarming rate.
Corporations with political objectives own local news stations across the country. One of these companies is the telecommunications giant known as Sinclair Broadcast Company. According to Vox, Sinclair-owned news stations reach 40 percent of American households. Although Sinclair denies having any political sway, it is publicly known that the company is right-leaning. Their Chief Political Analyst Boris Epheshteyn was a former member of the Trump administration. He can be seen giving biased statements on how the left is attacking President Trump during multiple newscasts.
Epheshteyn’s statement is an example of what are called “must-runs”. Must-runs are right-leaning political statements that are scattered throughout most of Sinclair’s newscasts. Although these statements are subjective in nature, broadcast journalists are required to say them on air. These must-runs reach all local news stations owned by Sinclair, talking about exclusively conservative issues.
Broadcasters, viewers, and free speech advocates have all publicly criticized these must-runs, but pushback against them became national news when the website Deadspin.com released a compilation of Sinclair TV stations across the country, which featured newscasters repeating the same must-run on screen.
Sinclair received intense backlash on social media but pushback against these must-runs was not new. Broadcasters contracted.
Edie Magnus, a former broadcaster and correspondent for 25 years—working until 2007—revealed that Sinclair was effective at getting anchors to say must-runs on camera.
According to Magnus, refusing to show Sinclair’s must-runs would have resulted in a breach of contract. This could result in the anchor’s job getting terminated, and Sinclar could sue them for breach of contract.
A friend of Magnus who worked for WKRC in Cincinnati, Ohio, said they did not enjoy their time under contract to Sinclair.
“He was miserable about having to do it, but had been told flat out that he’d be in breach of contract if he didn’t.”
Magnus also stated that knew of many other Sinclair broadcasters that did not enjoy their time working for the company. Sinclair apparently made it “…a very unpleasant place to work.”
Sinclair released a response to all the backlash they received as a result of the viral video. They called must-runs their “Corporate news journalistic responsibility promotional campaign.” This description is similar to one given by a current Sinclair broadcaster, who asked not to be named. They simply described it as “political commentary” put out by Sinclair.
The public’s trust in news dwindles when media conglomerates like Sinclair get exposed. People often look to local news for stories without commentary that are informative and factual.
However, it has been discovered that local news is not even safe from corporate and political bias.
In an age where more and more people are developing distrust in the media, companies like Sinclair are only adding to the problem.
Christian Maitre is a sophomore Journalism major who has nightmares about Fox News. They can be reached at [email protected].